We are so polite, as a society; so gosh-darned polite. Pardon the language.
We refer, in whispers, to someone’s alcoholism as their “condition.” An obese person is “unhealthy, but sturdy.”
I’ve noticed few people are willing to use the word “cancer” in front of me. They’re more likely to say “How are things?” with a slight elongation of the final word. “How are thiinnggs?” Or “How are (pause here) you (or here) doing with (definitely here) everything?” Everythiinngg.
I wouldn’t mind a refreshing “I thought you were dead.” Or even “I’m sorry about your cancer and also wondering how long before Robin might be ‘dateable’ again”?
I realize people feel uncomfortable discussing a sensitive topic. Many times, I’ve mumbled “So, is it true that you…you plan to vote for the (pause here) current federal government? Like, for real and not ironically?”
I get it. Some things are too dark to talk about.
In my case, I have no problem being all Chatty-Cathy about what ails me. I have no reservations about using the C word (cancer, not Conservative).
What really surprises me is how many of my health care providers avoid these direct words and phrases. My own oncologist, normally as plain-spoken as can be, repeatedly refers to my “disease.” It might just be a matter of preference for him, but I’ve noticed most nurses and other cancer specialists do the same. In fact, I rarely hear the word “tumour.” It’s usually a “lesion” or a “mass.”
I like the word “tumour.” It’s concrete. I know what I’m dealing with. It makes the intruder sound small, and beatable. “Mass” sounds like a piece of carry-on luggage hiding inside of me.
And referring to my “disease” makes me sound… diseased.
I have cancer folks.